Harvest the City

/ (1 of 5)

As a festival of harvest, Sukkot leads us to ask a few questions: What does harvest mean for a city dweller? What do we harvest in the city? What is our city harvesting?

In a sense, Sukkot is a festival of wood. It involves a harvest of trees for use as structure, shade and ritual. By in large, New York City was built with five kinds of wood: yellow and white pine, Douglas fir, hemlock and spruce. Much of this wood is well over a century old, inherently strong and an increasingly valuable urban heirloom. Within the cycle of building and rebuilding, wood which was once harvested from all over North America is re-harvested by local businesses which gather, sort, store, de-nail and mill it before it finds new uses in New York and beyond.

Our Sukkah, “Harvest the City”, participates in this cycle of harvest. The wood is drawn from various times and places in the City. Each piece’s surface is weathered and gouged from denailing. There are minor cracks and irregularities. While the wood itself is strong, we are not necessarily sure what the exact geometry of each piece will be. The harvest varies. We respond with a parametric design system that precisely locates and names details and members, accommodating varying widths and surfaces. The material of the Sukkah itself and the method of its fabrication compel us to act between what we can and can’t control, informing its details and assembly, inspiring its architecture.

The 19’x10’ footprint asks for a design from the inside out. The inner volume is smooth and ovoid, enough for six to sit and one to stand. The outer volume, roughly a cube, fits within the footprint. The wood members, beginning tangent to the ovoid surface and pinwheeling out to the cube, form a structure and experience which hovers between order and disorder. Appearing chaotic at first, “Harvest the City” reveals symmetries and comforts as you pass around and into it. Over a meal, the sun passes through a progressively porous roof, dappling the rough sawn walls, culminating in a faceted oculus. At night, the stars peak through its complex silhouette.